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Privett v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

March 20, 2015

CLAUDE PRIVETT, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DAVID L. BUNNING, District Judge.

Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) to obtain judicial review of an administrative decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. The Court, having reviewed the record and the parties' dispositive motions, will affirm the Commissioner's decision, as it is supported by substantial evidence.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Claude Privett, Jr. filed an application for disability insurance benefits on August 26, 2011, alleging that he became disabled on February 15, 2011.[1] (Tr. 215). Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and again on reconsideration. (Tr. 138). At Plaintiff's request, an Administrative Law Judge held a hearing on October 18, 2012, and thereafter issued an unfavorable decision on December 5, 2012. ( Id. ). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on January 22, 2014. (Tr. 8). This appeal followed and has culminated in cross-motions for summary judgment. (Docs. # 11, 15).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Overview of the Process

Judicial review of the Commissioner's decision is restricted to determining whether it is supported by substantial evidence and was made pursuant to proper legal standards. See Cutlip v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 25 F.3d 284, 286 (6th Cir. 1994). "Substantial evidence" is defined as "more than a scintilla of evidence but less than a preponderance; it is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. Courts are not to conduct a de novo review, resolve conflicts in the evidence, or make credibility determinations. See id. Rather, we are to affirm the Commissioner's decision, provided it is supported by substantial evidence, even if we might have decided the case differently. See Her v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 203 F.3d 388, 389-90 (6th Cir. 1999).

The ALJ, in determining disability, conducts a five-step analysis. Step 1 considers whether the claimant is still performing substantial gainful activity; Step 2, whether any of the claimant's impairments are "severe"; Step 3, whether the impairments meet or equal a listing in the Listing of Impairments; Step 4, whether the claimant can still perform his past relevant work; and Step 5, whether significant numbers of other jobs exist in the national economy which the claimant can perform. As to the last step, the burden of proof shifts from the claimant to the Commissioner. See Jones v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 336 F.3d 469, 474 (6th Cir. 2003); Preslar v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 14 F.3d 1107, 1110 (6th Cir. 1994).

B. The ALJ's Determination

At Step 1, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (Tr. 140). At Step 2, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar spine degenerative disc disease; bilateral carpel tunnel syndrome; and obesity. ( Id. ). However, based upon the clinical and diagnostic evidence, as well as Plaintiff's testimony, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's coronary artery disease and ACL tear were less than severe. (Tr. 141). At Step 3, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. ( Id. ).

At Step 4, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform sedentary work with the following limitations:

No sitting in excess of sixty to ninety minutes uninterrupted; no standing in excess of fifteen minutes uninterrupted; and no climbing of ladders, ropes or scaffolds. Additionally, the claimant is limited to no more than occasional climbing of ramps or stairs; no more than occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching or crawling; no more than frequent bilateral handling or grasping; and no concentrated exposure to vibration or extreme cold.

(Tr. 142). Based on these limitations, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work. (Tr. 144).

The ALJ then proceeded to the final step of the sequential analysis. At Step 5, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. (Tr. 145). The ALJ based this conclusion on testimony from a vocation expert (VE) in response to a hypothetical question assuming an individual of Plaintiff's age, work experience, education, and RFC. ( Id. ). Because the ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of performing a significant number of jobs in the ...


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